Indoor Dining, Schools Shut Down as Part of Restrictions to Slow COVID-19
Schools, public and private, will halt in-person learning, and restaurants will stop indoor dining as part of sweeping new restrictions announced Wednesday by Governor Andy Beshear as part of the state's effort to slow the surging spread of COVID-19.
Beshear announced an additional 2,753 confirmed coronavirus cases in Kentucky, the state's fourth-highest single-day total. All of the state's highest daily case count have come in the past week, the governor said.
Like most of the country, Kentucky has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, the local numbers in Northern Kentucky are high again, and come on a day that The River City News reported that St. Elizabeth Hospital in Fort Thomas is at capacity, and that the hospital system is moving to its surge plan and advocating other locations.
The Northern Kentucky Health Department reported eleven local deaths on Wednesday. It later said that deaths reported on Wednesday, November 18 include those reported from long term care from October 1 to November 18. Not all deaths occurred on November 18.
According to the state, Boone County saw 99 new cases, Kenton County reported 94, Campbell County reported 70, and Grant County reported 20, making for a total of 283 in the Northern Kentucky Independent Health District.
Pendleton County, which is in a different independent health district, reported 14 new cases.
Beshear announced new restrictions in six areas of social and business sectors on Wednesday.
First, he limited private indoor gatherings to eight people from no more than two households. That order begins Friday and is to last through Dec. 13.
Secondly, Beshear said that public indoor gatherings are now limited to twenty-five people.
Thirdly, bars and restaurants are to cease in-person dining starting Friday at 5 p.m. and lasting through Dec. 13. Delivery, take-out, and outdoor dining can continue. The state is launching a $40 million assistance program for these businesses for which up to $10,000 can be applied.
Fourth, gyms are now restricted to 33% capacity with masks required. There are to be no group fitness classes.
As a fifth step, office spaces are limited to 33% capacity.
And sixth, all schools, public and private, are to move to virtual learning starting on Monday. Middle and high schools may resume in-person learning on January 4. Elementary schools, if their counties are not in the red zone (averaging 25 or more daily cases per 100,000 people), can return on Dec. 7.
Beshear urged Kentuckians to remain vigilant as the state fights what he characterized as a third attack by COVID-19.
"Action is unpopular, but inaction is deadly," Beshear said.
The governor said that in March, the state's and its residents' efforts "crushed the curve", and in the summer, during a second surge, action taken by the state and its people allowed for a healthy enough environment for students to return to the classroom in the fall.
"But here we are enduring our third attack, our third wave, which means we are called to action once again," Beshear said. "Ignoring this virus, pretending it isn't real, is not an option. We can and we should take the actions necessary to save thousands of lives."
Beshear highlighted promising news about two different COVID-19 vaccines that are making their way through the nation's regulatory process.
"We have to take action to make sure we can save lives until we get there," he said.
This story will be updated.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher